Wednesday, December 20, 2006

How things work around here: Satellite TV edition

I decided to get satellite cable. A good decision- I get CNN, Discovery Channel, and can watch reruns of Beverly Hills 90210! Actually getting the service was an infuriating experience and indicative of the way that things work here in Angola.

Monday: Ben Carlos, and Angolan colleague, took me to the cable sub-office to sign up for the service. I was US$40 short for the package of the satellite and service payment, so I just paid for the satellite installation. I gave directions to the technicians and waited and waited for them. I waited for about 3 hours. When they got there and I asked why they took so long (they supposedly left the office at the same time I did) they said, “teve atraso,” or “there was a delay.” They set it up, or at least 75% of it. They said they would have to return for something the next day, but I couldn’t understand what exactly.

Tuesday: I called the sub-office to set up a time to finish the job and the technicians were out sick. Amazingly, all 5 of them were ill!

Wednesday: I finally got my dollars from the bank (getting money from the bank is a whole other ordeal), so I paid for the service to start. The technicians went over to my apartment to finish the job. Satellite service guaranteed to start that evening. The weekly Wednesday volleyball game was cancelled, so I went home very excited to start watching TV in English. Except, there was nothing!

Thursday: In the morning I call the sub-office to see what the problem is. They never recorded the number on my cable box so they couldn’t start service. They guaranteed to start service that evening. I was traveling to Cubal for the night, for the closure of the office and holiday party, and I expected to have quality TV time when I got home on Friday.

Friday: This is where things get ugly. I come home EXHAUSTED from Cubal. Apart from only getting 5 hours of sleep, thanks to all the kizomba dancing at the party, the ride from Cubal to Lobito is on one of the worst roads I have ever been on. It takes around 4 ½ hours- we left at 9 am and got to Lobito at 1:30 pm. I was so excited to have lunch in front of the television, but again, no signal! When I called the office phone, a cell phone belonging to the receptionist, Deborah, it was desligado, or turned off. There had also not been any water in town for 4 days, and the maid used all the water for cleaning without replacing it, so I couldn’t even take a bucket bath after a long trip. I was a just little cranky. On the way back to work, Juan took me to the cable office since he had to make his payment and both Eduardo (the manager) and Deborah (the sullen receptionist) assured me that I would have service that afternoon. Eduardo said he would call the main cable office and have everything resolved. Deborah also said to call if I had any problems. I told her that I had called only a few hours earlier, and the phone was turned off. She said, “Oh yes, the battery is dead.” I said, “So how can I call?” Blank… look… So then Eduardo gave me his cell phone number, assuring me that he was heading over to the main office right away to straighten things out.

After a quick cerveja Cristal (Portuguese beer) at the end of the workday with my officemate Anne, I headed home, completely exhausted and starving, looking forward once again to vegging out in front of English-language TV. I turned it on and NOTHING. I called Eduardo and the following exchange took place:
E: Oh, you’re going to have to wait until Monday because the office is closed until then.
L: What did the people at JEMBAS (the main office) say?
Dead silence.
L: Eduardo, did you go to the main office?
E: No, the office closes at 3 pm. (Juan and I got to the sub-office around 2:30.)
L: Eduardo, why did you tell me you were going to take care of it if the office was already closed?
Dead silence.
L: This is bad. I’m paying for a service that I’m not receiving.
E: No, no! Don’t worry- your service is paid for!
L: Yes, that’s the problem. I paid and I’m not receiving anything.
E: Yeah, don’t worry, it’s all paid for. Look, everything is closed until Monday, you’ll have to wait.
L: But I’m paying for the service!
E: Calma, calma. (Calm down, calm down.)

At this point, I break into tears and hang up. As my parents, brother and sister will tell you, it doesn’t take much to make me cry, but this was an all-out bawl-fest. I was just so tired from the trip and had really been looking forward to watching English-language TV, as pathetic as that sounds. Worse still, I could see the title of the programs that I could have been watching: The Daily Show! Grey’s Anatomy! Beverly Hills 90210! Lord of the Rings II! The whole interaction is indicative of just how difficult it is to get things done in Angola, and the utter lack of customer service.

Saturday: Juan picked me up to take me grocery shopping. He asked how my night was and when I told him, he said, “No way. We’re going there right now.” We went to the sub-office and saw Eduardo and Deborah. Now, Angola is a both a macho and hierachical-sensitive country. A woman on her own, as assertive as she may be, can’t get the same things done that a man can- especially a chefe (boss) like Juan. As soon as they saw Juan, they said, “Oh, Senhor Juan! Dona Leslie! We’ll do everything we can to get this taken care of!” There was someone else there, another customer, who said, “Why don’t you call the main JEMBAS office and have them take care of it?” To which Eduardo said, “Oh. JEMBAS is open on Saturdays? I didn’t know.” Juan, Eduardo and I then spend the next two hours running between my apartment and the JEMBAS office getting things taken care of.

After shopping, I come home to find a crystal-clear cable reception! With no sound! I call Eduardo, who tells me to call the Luanda help line. They tell me the problem is with the installation, not the signal. I call Eduardo again, and he promises to send over the technicians. “I’ll personally accompany them, right now!” he proudly tells me. Five hours later with no technicians around, I call Eduardo to find out where they were.
E: Oh, we came by and there was no one home. I was with them.
L: Really? I haven’t left the house all day. I’ve been waiting for you.
E: Yes, the technicians went and said no one was home. [Notice how he suddenly wasn’t there with them.] They can only come tomorrow morning.
L: Okay, what time?
E: Tomorrow.
L: What time?
E: Sometime tomorrow.
In the meantime, I ask my neighbor Sara who also has satellite TV if she knows what the problem is. She sends her 7 year old son to fix it. He is very cute but not good at fixing the satellite. The 8 people who live in her apartment and hang out in front of my apartment assure me that no one came looking for me.

Sunday: Around 1 pm and several phone calls to Eduardo, two technicians show up at the apartment. They are completely dumbfounded by the lack of sound and keep pressing the mute button over and over again. They leave to get another technician. This takes only one and a half hours. He takes one look at the TV, fiddles around with some of the menus, and I immediately have sound.

That’s all it took!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds a lot like my home town!